Lakers Game Preview: Lakers Continue Playoff Race Against Warriors

la-sp-ln-lakers-warriors-game-updates-20130325-001The Lakers currently have sole possession of the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. They have a one game lead on the Utah Jazz, and are once again in control of their own postseason destiny. The Lakers have won their last five out of six games, and need to continue to win to maintain the slightest of cushions over the Jazz. Kobe Bryant is coming off of one of his best performances in years in Portland on Wednesday. Pau Gasol has reemerged to championship Pau due to his return to play in the post.

Tonight, the Lakers face the Warriors, who they fell to on March 25th. The Warriors have already clinched a playoff spot, but will be fighting to even-up the regular season series with L.A. and for bragging rights as well. Steve Nash originally hurt his hamstrings/hip during the Lakers last match with the Warriors, in which has has missed the last five game from. Nash is questionable in tonight’s game. The Lakers have an all-time record of 195-109 against the Warriors, with a 112-37 home record against Golden State. The Lakers have won their last nine straight against the Warriors at home.

Frontcourt: David Lee continues to be the highlight of the Warriors’ frontcourt. Lee is aggressive offensively, and has several offensive options to go to to get his shot. However, he does tend to struggle defensively in the post. This should be highlighted and underlined in the Lakers’ game plan as Pau Gasol has been spectacular over the last few games since he is getting back into the post. Gasol must force Lee out of the paint, where Lee can get hot if left alone, and must box him out, especially for offensive rebounds. Lee is averaging 18.6 points and 11.3 boards per game.

Center Andrew Bogut was acquired last year from the Milwaukee Bucks to help the Warriors with their defensive effort. However, Bogut has been sidelined with injuries during most of his time with the Warriors so far. He has played 31 games for the Warriors this season thus far. However, his offensive contribution is way down this season compared to his career since Golden State is a perimeter-reliant team. However, Bogut re-injured his ankle last night against OKC, and did not travel with the team to Los Angeles. Expect to see the ball go down to Dwight Howard since Bogut will be absent. Harrison Barnes averages about 10 points per game, but is not living up to the high expectations of his rookie year. He has compiled a handful of monster dunks over the season but otherwise has remained pretty quiet.

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Backcourt: The Warriors’ backcourt combination in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson form arguably the best shooting backcourt in the NBA. Curry is in his fourth year in the NBA and he is an above average playmaker as well. If he can avoid his too often ankle injuries, he will be a top three point guard sooner than you think. He is already well on his way. Curry leads the team in scoring with 22.5 points and 6.9 assists per game. He is shooting a ridiculous 44.9 percent from the three-point line. The Lakers must avoid going under screens set by the Warriors for Curry, which opens up a plethora of options for him.

Klay Thompson, son of Lakers radio broadcaster Mychal Thompson, is in his second season and is a future star in the making. The Warriors tend to set screens away from the ball to open Thompson up on the perimeter. Therefore, Kobe Bryant cannot afford to do any ball-watching on defense and allow Thompson to create space. He can already takeover a game with his three-point shooting in his sophomore year. He is averaging 16.4 points per game on 40.2 percent three-point shooting. The Lakers must limit Jarret Jack’s contribution off the bench. The Lakers have a habit of letting Jack penetrate to the basket and get whatever he wants. That can’t happen tonight; not when their playoff hopes are in jeopardy.

Keys to Victory:
Come Out As The Aggressor: The Lakers must start the game immediately as the aggressor, plain and simple. Despite starting four rookies on Wednesday, the Blazers came out with energy and immediately controlled the pace of the game for essentially the entire first half. They took advantage of the Lakers’ old legs, which is what Golden State will replicate in a heartbeat, if allowed. The Lakers may not be able to initiate and sustain a fast-paced game, but if the crash the boards and use their energy to go after loose balls, then they won’t be left in the dust early in the game. There are three games remaining in their season, and possession of that eighth seed is not guaranteed. There is no excuse not to be aggressive and fight for your team at this point of the season.

Continue The Post Game: The post game for the Lakers has finally come alive over the past couple of games, or should I say allowed to have come alive. The idea of high/low post play featuring Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard is starting to come together. Their health is stable and their chemistry together probably has never been higher this season as it is right now. Continue to work inside-out; it works. According to ESPN Stats and Info, “in their last win against the Warriors on Dec. 22, the Lakers attempted a season-high 52 field goals inside 10 feet. In that game the Lakers trailed by 8 at halftime and pounded it inside after the break, shooting 15-of-28 inside 10 feet in the second half and overtime (they were 10-of-24 from that distance in the first half).”

Defend The Three-Point Line: I will leave this key plain and simple; do not let them get hot from behind the arc. From ESPN Stats and Info, “in their lone win against the Lakers on March 25, the Warriors went 8-of-14 on catch-and-shoots, including 7-of-11 from three-point range.”  The Warriors like to pull up for three in transition. The less that occurs, the better for the Lakers.

Golden State Warriors (45-34) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (42-37)
7:30 PM PST, April 12, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Warriors Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: David Lee
C: Festus Ezeli

Key ReservesG Jarret Jack, F Carl Landry, F Draymond Green

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